Catherine Crowe Collection

Scope and Content

A collection of novels and papers by and about the Victorian spiritualist and writer Catherine Crowe, collected by Geoffrey Larken in the course of his research for a book on Crowe between 1970 and 1990.

The material consists of a large number of manuscript notes by Larken as well as photocopies of relevant articles. There are a number of scrapbooks which hold images that were, in some way, connected with Catherine Crowe. Larken also provides copies of letters written by, to or about her. The collection also includes a number of copies of Crowe's published books.

Administrative / Biographical History

Catherine Ann Stevens Crowe (1790-1872) was born in London but spent most of her childhood at Borough Green in Kent. Little is known of her early life until she married Lt Col John Crowe. She was an early advocate of women's educational rights, including ladies such as Harriet Martineau among her correspondents. Her other associates reflect Edinburgh and London society in the mid nineteenth century and include Hans Christian Andersen, the artist Jane Loudon, the publisher T. Fields and his wife Annie Adams and many more authors, artists and photographers.

She was also deeply interested in the supernatural, in particular spiritualism and the occult. She is mentioned as a prominent spiritualist in the 1871 Yearbook of Spiritualism. Mrs Crowe wrote a series of novels and articles relating to the supernatural and in 1848 published The night side of nature. This book includes topics such as mesmerism, parapsychology, poltergeists and phrenology and went through three editions in five years. Mrs Crowe described herself as the 'disciple' of George Combe, a prominent phrenologist.

In 1859 Mrs Crowe suffered some form of mental breakdown. This event was well documented by, among others, Charles Dickens. After her illness she wrote very little.

Access Information

Contact to make an appointment for viewing. You will need to give a list of files you would like to see. Please be aware that we need at least half a day's notice of a visit.

Acquisition Information

Geoffrey Larken became interested in Catherine Crowe after seeing her name included in Thackeray's party given for Charlotte Brontë. Crowe was described as a 'ghost fancier'. Although Larken collected a great deal of material relating to Catherine Crowe, he was unable to find a publisher for his book. The collection was given to the University of Kent in two parts, the first after the death of Geoffrey Larken, the second after the death of his fellow researcher Winifred Bergess.

Other Finding Aids

Item level catalogue of papers available on the Special Collections website

Item level catalogue of bound items available on the University of Kent and Cathedral Library catalogue

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Collection contains a variety of printed, Xeroxed and Larken's original research material.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies permitted in accordance with copyright law and at the discretion of the Specialist Collections and Academic Archives team where contents are of a sensitive nature.


No further accruals are expected.